Friday, March 9, 2007

"The Birthday Party"

Stanley N. Alpert is an attorney and the author of The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival, which William Grimes of the New York Times called "one of the most exhilarating, improbable New York stories ever told."

He applied the "page 69 test" to The Birthday Party and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival, chronicles a brief calm in the storm for the protagonist -- me -- who has been kidnapped at gunpoint off a New York City street by a vicious gang of robbers. I walked along East 10th Street in Greenwich Village when they came up behind me with automatic weapons, forced me into a car, and took me to a crash pad in Brooklyn while the robbers plotted as to how best to get at the money in my bank account. When I first arrived it was all bedlam and threats to kill me and my father. But hours later, they slept, and the thoughts underneath my blindfold turned to how this could have happened and what I would do if I did happen to make it out of there alive:

Of course, I couldn't tell if everyone was asleep, and I was pretty sure that if Ren and Sen were sleeping, it was with one eye open, like a couple of mean cowpokes in a dime Western who had just rustled up some cattle and were guarding them as the embers on the campfire still glowed a faint orange. . . . As I lay awake, I decided that if I made it out of there alive, I was getting the hell out of New York. This had gone too far. How could a normal person live here? (p. 69).

On the face of it, the page 69 test misses with my book. Part I, entitled Mouse, where I was kidnapped, contains the lurid details of violent threats against me, teen prostitute sex going on in the room around me, and a psychological duel between me and my jailers; details that Joseph Wambaugh says are "too wild to be fiction." Part II, entitled Cat, shows how the clues I gathered gave fodder to a major FBI and NYPD investigation, leading to the roundup of the bad guys within 48 hours of my release. Both Parts of the book are action packed, frightening and funny. Page 69 is tame by comparison. But the page 69 test for my book captures the philosophical essence of the book: what lessons does a person draw from a near-death experience? For that, the reader should also turn to the last chapter, entitled Get What You Want, showing how a near death experience can teach all of us to grab life to the fullest while we have it, as it is too precious to squander.
Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.

--Marshal Zeringue